MARION, Ind. -- A school recently suspended four eighth-grade girls because they wore identical outfits on the same day, some of the girls and their parents said.
Two of the girls, Dacia Small and Mindy Ellis, said McCulloch Middle School officials incorrectly branded them as gang members because of the outfits. The four received a five-day suspension after Principal Michael Shaffer saw their clothes, Small and Ellis said.
"One of the girls asked him what was the matter with it. Then he started yelling at all everybody and took us to the office and suspended us," Small told Indianapolis TV station WRTV.
Shaffer said the girls were suspended because they violated school rules, but he declined to say which rules they broke.
"I can't really address specifically a student discipline issue in regard to a particular student," Shaffer said. "I will tell you that we have a code of conduct here at McCulloch Middle School that we expect all of our students to measure up to. We're talking about a violation of that code of conduct."
The girls, whose suspensions end Tuesday, are in an after-school dance group together, but not a gang, Small said.
"We dressed alike because we are just friends," Small said.
Small's mother, Regina Barnett, said she isn't happy with Shaffer's decision. She said she thought the suspension had to do with the girls being black. Shaffer is white.
"I told him I think it's a racial thing," Barnett said. "He said he didn't appreciate me saying that because he has black friends and this and that," Barnett said.
Barnett said she is worried that the gang allegation would be on her daughter's school record.
"I don't want it on her record that she got kicked out for a gang," Barnett said. "She's not in a gang. I'm not going to let that get stuck on her record."
Barnett said she hoped to talk to the school district's superintendent about the issue.
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